NCC, MSU-Mankato partnership gives students new opportunities
By Barb Teed
Student Trudy Lynch dreams of becoming
an elementary school teacher. A returning student with a family, Lynch has an established life in Savage. “I am in my 30s, married and I have kids ages 8 and 6,” she said.
Leaving her family to live in Mankato to receive a BA degree in teaching was not something this busy mom could do. Still, she hoped someday to enter a classroom as a teacher. Now, because of a partnership between NCC and Mankato State University, Lynch’s dream of teaching will turn into a reality. And all without leaving the NCC campus.
On Sept. 22, in a ceremony at NCC to celebrate the Minnesota Valley Education Partnership, Lynch talked about her journey into the teaching profession. Before an audience of educators, dignitaries and students, Lynch described how the partnership has impacted her life.
“I am in a cohort of 23 students and they are my second family these days that will soon be my teaching colleagues,“ she told the listeners. “I have come to think of [this]program as a hidden jewel.” The partnership allows NCC students to continue coursework for elementary and special education bachelor degrees on the NCC campus. Although courses are taught on the NCC campus, the students receive their degree from MSU and are thought by MSU faculty assigned to NCC.
Kathi Hiyane-Brown, NCC president, said at the ceremony that the partnership
is the strongest she has seen in 30 years. “We have to look at the different opportunities we can offer in science and math,” she said.
Dr. Richard Davenport, president of Minnesota State University, Mankato agreed and said, ”We are looking way beyond what other two-year and four-year institutions are looking at. It’s really about leadership and it’s our students who go on to be leaders." Davenport said it is important to give students a quality of passion. “We have significant challenges. We have issues that we have never had to deal with today that these students will have to deal with. Health, population, technology, environment
and terrorism,“ he said. “A problem with leadership today is we have such different
challenges. We are looking at global forces because we are now entering the world stage and we have to be a part of that world stage.”
Davenport said he met Hiyane-Brown at the Harvard Institute for Leaders and they both agreed on how important it is to connect a two-year college with a four- year institution. “I have never seen a two-year college president that has a vision like Dr. Hiyane-Brown has,“ he told the audience. Scott Thiss, board trustee of the Minnesota
State College and Universities System said the partnership is a winner. “This partnership is innovating and far reaching,” he said. “It hits all four cylinders of our strategic plan.”
Dr. Linda Baer, vice-chancellor of MnSCU said she congratulates the two colleges “in establishing this powerful partnership. I look forward with great anticipation with the outcomes of this partnership.” Hiyane-Brown held-up an award presented to NCC by the Phi Theta Kappa honor society at its Best Practices competition held in Atlanta.
“This award was given to only seven in the nation,” she said. The award is a national competition that highlights the achievements of community colleges that have best met the needs of students who will become future teachers of mathematics and science, said Phi Theta Kappa executive director Rod Risley, in a letter published in Best Practices magazine. NCC won for the partnership program, Hiyane-Brown said.
Lynch received a national scholarship at the Best Practices conference, she said.
Funding for the partnership comes from a three-year, $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, according to Julie Guelich, NCC interim vice-president for academic affairs.
The partnership, in its second year of a three-year grant cycle, faces an uncertain future when the grant money runs out, Guelich said. “That’s a good question,” she said. “We ask ourselves that. We might apply for more funds and I am not sure what will happen. It’s a big process to apply for. The focus of the grant is to prepare math and science teachers.”
Guelich said she helped write the grant. “We’ve had a strong team of faculty working on it,“ she said. “We’ve set-up the program and the salaries of staff so they aren’t affected. We’ll still offer the courses.”
MSU-Mankato provides its own faculty salaries in the partnership teaching program,
Guelich said. Melinda Voss, public relations director of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, said there are other specific programs in the system like the NCC and MSU partnership.
“There are lots of what we call ‘articulation agreements’ between our two-year and four-year institutions that allow students to take the last two years of a bachelor’s degree on a two-year college campus,” she said. Voss said she knew of 56 such agreements.
Jon Marshall, NCC dean of humanities and college readiness, said the partnership
with MSU is unique. “There are other partnerships with other community colleges,
but this is the only one with Mankato,“ he said.
Lynch, who also serves as president of the NCC Teachers of Tomorrow club, said she will be looking for a teaching job soon. “My goal is that in the fall of 2007, I will speak the words of my dreams, ‘Good morning class! My name is Mrs. Lynch and I will be your teacher’,” she said in her closing remarks at the ceremony.